When the Poetry No Longer Rhymes: MentaL Health Issues Among Somali Immigrants in the USA

Deborah L. Scuglik, Renato D. Alarcón, Andre C. Lapeyre, Mark D. Williams, Kathleen M. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


To identify and explore cultural dynamics influencing the psychiatric care of immigrant Somalis in the USA, we reviewed demographic data from Minnesota Departments of Human Services, and interviewed health professionals, exploring community perceptions of medical/psychiatric needs, cultural characteristics, barriers to care, and potential solutions. An informal survey of 37 members of the Mayo Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, to determine caregiver perceptions of care of Somali patients, cited language barriers (74%), and cultural misperceptions (68%) as the most frequent obstacles. Difficulties working within the patriarchal family structure, limited community resources, poor compliance, and financial issues ranged between 18 and 8%. Additional barriers mentioned were problems working with interpreters from ‘warring clan factions,’ patients' fears of being labeled ‘crazy,’ difficulties viewing illness within an emotional framework, and the need to address mental health from a physical framework through a focus on somatic symptoms. Somalis rarely acknowledge psychiatric problems and common traditional treatments have become ineffective in the new context. Recommendations include alternative health care approaches utilizing family values, ‘bargaining,’ and educational approaches to acculturation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-595
Number of pages15
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Somali
  • acculturation
  • culture
  • immigrant
  • psychiatry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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